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Culture and Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Impact on Prevalence and Recognition 

Culture and Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Impact on Prevalence and Recognition

Chapter:
Culture and Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Impact on Prevalence and Recognition
Author(s):

Roy Richard Grinker

, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp

, and Coleen Boyle

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780195371826.003.0008
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date: 28 April 2017

This chapter describes a significant number of obstacles to conducting international research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and highlights opportunities for advancing knowledge about how autism varies across different settings. Even a preliminary cross-cultural exploration of the epidemiology of autism and the role that culture plays in diagnosis and treatment shows that ASD exists throughout the world, even in societies that have no name for it. The study of the cultural variations in ASD is therefore not so much a matter of whether ASD exists, but rather the contexts in which it takes shape. The chapter also argues that ASD should be conceptualized as a cultural phenomenon and as a disability—not just as a phenomenon of Western civilization, and not just a disease. Understanding how culture influences the recognition and definition of autism spectrum disorders will facilitate cross-cultural adaptations of screening and diagnostic tools, and generate knowledge that can one day be translated into a better understanding of its etiology and improved treatments, services, education, and community integration of people on the autism spectrum.

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